May 23, 2017 11:13
North Korea's missile test on Sunday was of a solid-fuel missile that is now been "approved for deployment in combat" by leader Kim Jong-un, the state-run [North] Korean Central News Agency said Monday. Kim also ordered mass production of the missile.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff here said the Pukguksong-2 missile probably has an intermediate range of 2,000 km, not 2,500-3,000 as previously presumed.
The latest launch focused on testing of the solid-fuel engine as well as checking functions including a "cold launch" from a mobile launcher with caterpillar treads, the guidance and control system, and the separation of boosters, KCNA said.
In a cold launch a missile is pushed up and out by steam pressure from the launch tube. The technology was developed based on the Pukguksong-1 submarine-based ballistic missile.
The North also published an image shot from space with a camera installed on the warhead of the Pukguksong-2. "It seems they improved the accuracy of the warhead during descent," a military source here speculated.
The only solid-fuel surface-to-surface missile the North has deployed so far is the KN-02, which only has a range of some 200 km.
South Korea and the U.S. will find it harder to detect solid-fuel missile launches in advance by reconnaissance satellites because launch preparation is much shorter than for liquid fuel.
The solid-fuel missile "can launch on perhaps five minutes' notice compared to the 30 to 60 minutes required for a Rodong," said aerospace engineer John Schilling in February. "All of these factors would make it much harder to find and pre-emptively destroy the Pukguksong-2."
The new missile cannot reach the U.S. base in Guam but has all U.S. military bases in Japan, including Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, within range. With a nuclear warhead it could deal a considerable blow to the deployment of U.S. reinforcement troops to the Korean Peninsula.
The North has recently taken a two-track approach -- the simultaneous development of solid- and liquid-fuel medium- and long-range missiles. It is also developing a new engine for intercontinental ballistic missiles.
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